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Cupcake Taste-off: Kara’s vs. Sprinkles

2009 was the year of the cupcake. Cupcakes on a stick, mini cupcakes, deep fried cupcakes, it just went on and on. Everywhere you looked — cupcake this, cupcake that. Ah, 2009 was a fine year.

So why do I have cupcake on the brain now? In 2010? Which is supposed to be the year of the macaron (or something)? Because I was in Williams-Sonoma and saw that they carry a pre-packaged mix for Sprinkles cupcakes. And then the voice inside my head said, “Noooooooooooooooooo.”

You see, one lazy day a friend and I decided to do a cupcake taste-off between Kara’s and Sprinkles. Based in San Francisco and Beverly Hills, respectively, they’ve both inspired cult-like followings and have an eerily similar aesthetic. Sprinkles was started before Kara’s, so in my head that was a nod in the Sprinkles column, but Kara’s was started locally in the Bay Area, so there was an equivalent nod in the Kara’s column. There is both a Sprinkles store and a Kara’s store a mere 5 minutes apart in Palo Alto, so this taste-off was just begging to happen as far as I was concerned.

This is what we sampled:

  • From Sprinkles: a red velvet, a lemon, and a vanilla with chocolate frosting.
  • From Kara’s: a chocolate velvet, a meyer lemony lemon, and a vanilla with chocolate frosting.

We lined up half a dozen pretty little cupcakes, carefully sliced each one in half, and then attacked them all. Poor things didn’t stand a chance. The verdict: Kara’s, hands down.

This is how we broke it down:

Sprinkles

  • Texture: Moist, but also mushy in a way that suggested it was undercooked. Fell apart too easily.
  • Taste: Great flavor in all cupcakes sampled.
  • Icing: Very sweet, with a kind of texture reminiscent of canned frosting.

Kara’s

  • Texture: Moist, cooked just right. Cake held it’s shape and didn’t make a huge mess.
  • Taste: Also great flavor, though the runaway hit was the meyer lemony lemon, which had a dollop of lemon curd in the middle. Yum.
  • Icing: Airy, light, and less sweet than Sprinkles.

I hear that restaurant critics are supposed to visit a place several times before writing a review, each time sampling different items. The undercooked texture at Sprinkles could have been a fluke, maybe the Kara’s icing tasted less sweet because I had tasted the Sprinkles icing first, etc. Personally, I don’t think my blood sugar could handle another cupcake taste-off.

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